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Corporate parenting: Resource pack for councillors

A n image of a white page in the centre of the page is the text Corporate parenting resource pack for councillors.
Every councillor has a role to play in embedding corporate parenting principles and doing all they can to support children in care to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. This resource pack helps provide an overview of this role and how they can fulfil it as effectively as possible.


Looking after and protecting children and young people is one of the most important jobs that councils do and when a child, for whatever reason, can’t safely stay at home, it is up to us as the local authority to step in and give them the care, support and stability that they deserve. This isn’t just up to the lead member or director of children’s services – we need everyone looking out for our most vulnerable children and young people. Every councillor has a role to play in embedding the corporate parenting principles and doing all they can to support children in care to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. This pack aims to help them fulfil that role as effectively as possible. 

Being a corporate parent means doing everything we can for every child in the council’s care – and every care leaver – to give them the opportunities that other children get. This covers everything from keeping an eye on their progress at school, to looking after their health and wellbeing, to preparing them for life as independent adults – and supporting them when they get there. We need to be ambitious for the children in our care, encouraging them to dream big and take chances, even if they don’t feel like that’s been an option in the past. We need to facilitate and empower our children in care to make a smooth and stable transition to adulthood and enable them to have a say in key decisions that affect their lives. 

It’s also about the smaller things that make life more fulfilling. It’s about making sure children receive birthday cards, are rewarded when they do well (and supported when they don’t), get to take part in the activities they enjoy and have new experiences. It’s about making sure someone’s on the end of a phone when a care leaver is having a hard day at work or university, or is there to help them navigate an application form. It’s about doing the things you’d do for your own children.

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 defined for the first time in law the responsibility of corporate parents to ensure, as far as possible, secure, nurturing and positive experiences for looked-after children and young people, and care leavers. Councils across the country already do a fantastic job of this, and we’ve highlighted some examples in this pack. We’d be delighted to hear of any others to add to our online good practice database for others to learn from, to make sure every councillor has the tools they need to be a good corporate parent. 

Many of the children who come into our care will face more challenges before they reach adulthood than any child should have to. It is our duty and our privilege to fight their corer and give them every opportunity to reach their potential.

Councillor Louise Gittins 
Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board

Corporate parenting: an introduction

What is a corporate parent?

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 says that when a child or young person comes into the care of the council, or is a “qualifying care leaver”  (someone who between 16 and 25 and was looked-after by the authority for at least 13 weeks after their  fourteenth birthday), the council becomes their corporate parent. This means that they should:

  • act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing, of those children and young people
  • encourage them to express their views, wishes and feelings, and take them into account,
  • make sure they have access to services
  • make sure children and young people are safe, with stable home lives, relationships and education or work
  • promote high aspirations and try to secure the best outcomes for them
  • prepare them for adulthood and independent living. 

All councillors and officers are corporate parents, including those in district councils. It is therefore every councillor’s responsibility to make sure that the council is meeting these duties towards children in care and care leavers. Children can be in care in a range of different settings, with the authority acting as corporate parent to all of them. This includes foster care, children’s homes, secure children’s homes, young offender institutions, secure training centres and some types of kinship care. 

Every councillor and officer within a council has a responsibility to act for those children and young people as a parent would for their own child. Lead members, those on corporate parenting panels, and overview and scrutiny committees will have particular responsibilities, but for all councillors, this is where your role as the eyes and ears of the community is particularly important. Are there youth services in your ward that provide a vital service for looked-after children, and if so, how are you supporting them? Is there a children’s home or care leaver accommodation in your ward? If foster carers in your ward provide care for disabled children, do they need any help to improve the accessibility of local services? What feedback are you getting from residents? How are you helping to dispel myths and challenge any stigma and discrimination faced by children and young people in care and care leavers? Are local businesses working with you to offer opportunities to children in care and care leavers? It’s important to remember the need to protect the privacy of these children and young people, so work with officers to find out how you can best provide support.

For both officers and councillors, being a corporate parent means that when any service is being reviewed that could impact upon looked-after children and care leavers, or when you’re hearing feedback from, or reports about, children in the council’s care, consider:

“What if this were my child?"

"What can we do to put this right?”

Childhood is a critical time for development that sets the foundation for children and young people’s futures. As corporate parents, all councillors will be committed to ensuring the fundamentals are in place for every child and young person in their care – just as any loving parent would. How does a child in care know that they are loved and they matter; who notices and encourages all the great things about them; and to whom can they turn when they are unhappy or want help to be heard? These are some starter questions for exploring how your council does its best for children in care and care leavers.         

Of course, just as not all children are the same, looked-after children and care leavers are not one homogenous group. While it is true that some will have experienced trauma and disruption in their lives and need specialist support to cope with those experiences, others will have adjusted well to being in care and may be flourishing. Periods of stability can be followed by challenges, so councillors need to recognise the uniqueness of the children in their care, and make sure each child is getting what they need to thrive and be happy.

Corporate parenting vs parental responsibility

While councils have corporate parenting responsibilities for all children in their care and care leavers, they do not have parental responsibility for all children in their care. 

Parental responsibility is defined by the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and [their] property”. While the scope of parental responsibility is not defined in primary legislation, the courts have acknowledged that parental responsibility does include the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s education and consent to their medical treatment. 

Councils have parental responsibility for children placed in their care by a court under section 31 of the Children Act 1989, where a child is experiencing, or at risk of, significant harm. However, councils do not have parental responsibility for children who are voluntarily accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Section 20 arrangements can either be made with the consent of the child’s parents  (or the child themselves if they are 16 or over)or they can be made in circumstances where a child’s parents are absent, for example many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are looked-after under section 20.  

Corporate parenting panel

As corporate parents, all councillors should seek to stay informed about children in the council’s care, and care leavers. However, the establishment of a corporate parenting panel can provide a useful forum to monitor the wellbeing of children looked after by the council; look strategically at the way children in care and care leavers are experiencing services; provide a forum to discuss issues; and a positive link with children in care councils and other forums. Members of the corporate parenting panel can also use their position to raise awareness of the role amongst colleagues, and provide support to the lead member for children’s services. 

Senior officers should sit on the panel, including from areas such as education, health and housing that have a significant impact on children in care and care leavers. In two-tier areas, it should be considered how district council colleagues can be included.

The corporate parenting panel does not replace the duty of all councillors; members of all committees have a responsibility to consider how reports before them impact upon children in care and care leavers.

Information and data

The lead member for children’s services and those on the corporate parenting panel should receive regular progress reports regarding looked-after children and care leavers. This data will be available to all members through reports presented to Full Council and scrutiny committees.

Data will be able to provide an overview of medium-to-long-term trends, but statistics on their own are not enough. Data should be presented with the necessary context and explanations – for example, if fewer children are going missing, is this the result of a positive intervention that should be continued? Or are there issues with reporting? It is important to look for direction of travel, comparisons with your statistical neighbours and national data to see where the council is performing well and what could be better. Speak with officers to understand the detail behind the data.

As any parent will know, situations with children and young people change quickly, and statistics will not provide all the real-time data that you need. The corporate parenting panel should keep in close contact with the children in care council, independent reviewing officers (IROs), children’s rights and advocacy services and the director of children’s services (DCS) to make sure they’re receiving up-to-date information and can respond quickly if needed.

Listening to children and young people

Councils have wide-ranging duties to give due consideration to the wishes and feelings of children in care and care leavers.  This applies to decisions and actions affecting children and young people as individuals, and to wider matters concerning children in care and care leavers. As corporate parents, all councillors should take an active interest in how well children in care and care leavers are listened to and how this is acted upon. Care experienced people of all ages have valuable, direct knowledge of how it feels to be in care, and what needs to change for the better. 


Councils have a responsibility for safeguarding all children, but there are certain risks that particularly affect children in care and care leavers that corporate parents need to be aware of.

Children in care are much more likely to go missing than children not in care, with particular groups such as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and children who have experienced trafficking or exploitation, particularly at risk.  Processes must be in place to report missing children, take the appropriate action to find the child, and then to follow up with them when they are found to establish the underlying reasons for going missing. Corporate parents should be monitoring instances of children going missing, and how regularly independent return interviews are taking place (including for children placed out of area), as well as any emerging themes. The local authority should also collaborate and share information and intelligence with other countries if a child in care goes missing and is thought to have travelled aboard. 

Child victims of modern slavery are particularly vulnerable: one in three trafficked children went missing from local authority care in 2020. Councils need to make sure a strong multi-agency approach is in place to protect victims from further risk from their traffickers and preventing trafficking from taking place. In particular, there should be a clear understanding between the local authority and the police of roles in planning for this protection and responding if a trafficked child goes missing. Council representatives on local multi-agency safeguarding partnerships should make sure there is oversight of those arrangements, and monitor how well they are being implemented and reviewed. 

Children in care are also disproportionately likely to be at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) than those in the general population, though it is important to remember that the vast majority of CSE victims are living at home. While those issues that led young people to need local authority care in the first place may increase their vulnerability to CSE, the experience of care itself can also be significant, especially if the child’s placement lacks stability. Those at risk of CSE will need to have clear plans in place to protect them, and all social workers and partners should know how to spot signs of risk and deal with them appropriately.

There is also the threat of county lines and child criminal exploitation that children in care may be susceptible to due to increased levels of vulnerability. In addition to ensuring plans are in place to safeguard young people, local authorities are encouraged through a national protocol to work in partnership and have effective mechanisms in place to support children in care and care leavers from being unnecessarily criminalised.                          

There is a high proportion of children in care within the youth justice system, either at young offender institutions, secure training centres or secure children’s homes. Councils are responsible for children in custody who are the subject of care orders, and all children remanded to youth detention accommodation automatically attain looked after status. Councils should therefore have systems and processes in place to support this group of young people.


The council has a duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, sufficient accommodation is available locally to meet the needs of looked-after children and care leavers. This can be directly provided, or commissioned provision. Councils should regularly review their position on this, and report on how they intend to meet the sufficiency duty. This will be a valuable source of information for corporate parents.

We will shortly be publishing a resource pack on placements to support councillors in this duty.

Assessing the impact of interventions 

Assessing what interventions are effective in supporting children and young people is vital to ensure good outcomes. There is extensive evidence around the efficacy and impact of many established interventions that can be used to support children and families. The Early Intervention Foundation’s (now the Foundations What Works Centre for Children and Families)EIF Guidebook, and the Youth Endowment Fund’s (YEF) YEF Toolkit collate significant evidence on best practice.

The independent evaluations of the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme projects are another valuable resource to help understand what works. The innovation programme was launched in 2014 to test and share effective ways of supporting vulnerable children and young people. It funded 94 local projects with innovative approaches to issues ranging from child exploitation and abuse, to fostering and adoption, and supporting parents facing complex risks.

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children

In recent years, there has been a significant rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UAS) children who have been arriving in the UK and require support. Under the Children Act 1989, all councils have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area on the basis of need, regardless of the child’s immigration status.

As well as supporting UAS children identified in their area, councils are also required to support UAS children through the National Transfer Scheme (NTS). The NTS was established in 2016 to fairly distribute UAS children from the place where they arrive to placements around the country to alleviate pressure on port authorities. Since 2022, it has been mandatory for local authorities to accommodate UAS children from the NTS on a rota system, with the number of children referred to each council area being based upon various considerations, including the number of children in care locally and wider asylum pressures. 

There is a threshold applied to the numbers of UAS children a council is expected to support. While councils are below this threshold, they must participate in the NTS and they cannot refer any UAS children who arrive in their area into the NTS. Government changed the threshold from 0.07 per cent of a council’s child population to 0.1 per cent on 24 August 2022. Councils receive more funding to support children when they are above the 0.07 per cent threshold.

In July 2023, a High Court Judgement determined that the routine housing of UASC in hotels on their arrival to the UK, rather than in local authority care, is unlawful. This followed significant safeguarding and welfare concerns about children being placed in hotels without appropriate care, with children being placed in hotels at particular risk of being trafficked or going missing. 

As of the 31 March 2022, care leavers who were formerly UAS children made up 26 per cent of all care leavers aged 19-21. As part of their corporate parenting duties, councillors will therefore want to consider specific provision for this group of young people.

Sources of information

Children in Care Council and other feedback mechanisms

There should be mechanisms in place to hear from children in care and care leavers. This information should be reported regularly to the corporate parenting panel. There may also be an annual report submitted to Full Council. The format for reporting should be discussed with children and young people; some may wish to meet with councillors to discuss issues face-to-face, some may prefer to use mediators, and others may prefer online methods.

This feedback can provide rich information to act upon to make sure children in care and care leavers are getting what they need – from concerns about how they’re kept informed about their placements, to how often they can see any siblings they aren’t placed with, right down to whether they’re happy with their pocket money.

Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) annual report

Amongst other duties, IROs are responsible for making sure that the local authority, as a corporate parent, gives proper consideration and weight to children’s wishes and feelings in their care plans, and that it genuinely responds to a child’s needs.

The IRO manager should produce an annual report for the consideration of the corporate parenting panel, which should include areas of good practice and areas for development. It should include commentary on issues including the participation of children and their parents, and whether any resource issues are putting the delivery of a good service to all looked-after children and care leavers at risk. 

Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy

Joint health and wellbeing strategies (JHWSs) are developed by local leaders to enable the planning and commissioning of integrated services that meet the needs of their whole local community. They particularly work to reduce health inequalities and support the needs of vulnerable groups and individuals; the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment underpinning the JHWS should include specific consideration of children in care and care leavers. The strategy (or associated delivery plan) will include targets, actions and who is responsible for implementing those actions.

The JHWS will be agreed by the health and wellbeing board, which should also monitor its implementation. Board meetings should be public, as should the JHWS, reports and meeting minutes.

Performance reports

Reports should be published regularly updating on key indicators in relation to children in care, including direction of travel. These indicators are part of a nationally collected dataset reported to government, and include information on placement stability, outcomes for children in care and adoption. Your authority may also report on other indicators according to local priorities.

Key priorities to consider include:

  • placement stability 
  • health data 
  • educational attainment 
  • proportion of care leavers in education, employment or training
  • children in care being placed out of area or at a distance including overseas placements 
  • proportion of care leavers that the council has regular contact with
  • availability of suitable housing for care leavers.

Further information on these points is included throughout this pack.

Performance reports should be publicly available and should also be presented to a locally agreed committee – for example the corporate parenting panel, the relevant scrutiny committee or cabinet.

Feedback from foster parents and children’s homes

Around 70 per cent of children who are in care live with foster parents so the quality and experience of those foster parents is key to delivering good outcomes for children. Each council will have different ways of gathering feedback from foster parents, including surveys and focus groups, along with different ways of reporting that feedback. Feedback should also be sought from foster parents via independent fostering agencies. The corporate parenting panel should receive updates on foster parent feedback, and this should be used to help inform support for foster parents, and to improve recruitment and retention.

The panel may also wish to consider ongoing input from foster carers by co-opting representatives onto the panel, or having regular meetings with carers to hear about experiences and receive feedback.

The number of children living in children’s homes has been increasing in recent years; how is feedback from staff in children’s homes being sought to understand any patterns or issues of concern?

Working with partners

Under the Children Act 2004, local authorities have a duty to promote cooperation between ‘relevant partners’, including the police, the NHS and education providers, while those partners have a duty to cooperate with the local authority in turn. Guidance on the Act highlights that corporate parenting is a ‘task [that] must be shared by the whole local authority and partner agencies’.  Councils should consider how their partners can help them to deliver their corporate parenting role, especially in relation to the provision of services. The NHS has a responsibility to make sure looked-after children receive the physical and mental health support that they need, for example, while close working between schools and the virtual school head (VSH) can help to improve outcomes for children and young people in care.

Key national developments in children’s social care

In recent years, there have been several high-profile national reviews of the children’s social care system. In response, the Government has set out a programme of national reform for children’s social care. 

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care 

Most recently, Josh MacAlister, a former schoolteacher and founder of the charity Frontline, was commissioned by the Government in 2021 to lead the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (The Care Review). The review published its final report on 23 May 2022. 

While the report recognised that there is significant good practice within children’s social care, it found that “without a dramatic whole system reset, outcomes for children and families will remain stubbornly poor and by this time next decade there will be approaching 100,000 children in care (up from 80,000 today) and a flawed system will cost over £15 billion per year (up from £10 billion now).”

The Care Review called for a “fundamental shift” to reduce the number of children coming into care through better early family help, as well as improving outcomes for children and young people by fixing the “broken care market,” strengthening child protection, and work to allow more children to remain in family networks. 

The Review set out a number of recommendations to achieve this, including:

  • Improving early support for families by integrating ‘early help’ and ‘children in need’ into one multi-disciplinary ‘family help’ service. 
  • Unlocking the potential of family networks by better supporting kinship carers and – where appropriate – giving families a strong voice in developing family-led plans for children’s care.  
  • “A new deal for foster care” which would involve recruiting thousands more foster carers;
  • “A radically new offer for social workers” which would enable them to spend more time with children and families and support their professional development. 
  • Strengthening the child protection system, including improving information sharing and creating the role of an “Expert Child Protection Practitioner” to support Family Help Teams in making key decisions;
  • Reforming the care market, by creating local authority-led Regional Care Cooperatives (RCCs) which would take responsibility for running all new public sector fostering, residential and secure care, as well as commissioning all not-for-profit and private sector care.

The Review calculated that an additional £2.6 billion over four years would be needed to deliver its proposals and achieve the improved outcomes it envisioned. 

Stable homes, built on love strategy

On 2 February 2022 the Government published its responded to the Care Review and its strategy for reforming children’s social care “stable homes, built on love.”

The strategy was backed by £200 million of new investment, and set out a range of proposals, organised under six ‘pillars’ of reform: 

  • family help provides the right support at the right time so that children can thrive with their families
  • a decisive multi-agency child protection system
  • unlocking the potential of family networks
  • putting love, relationships and a stable home at the heart of being a child in care
  • a valued, supported and highly skilled social worker for every child who needs one
  • a system that continuously learns and improves, and makes better use of evidence and data.

Within the strategy, several new initiatives were announced to deliver the plans for reform, including:

  • Pathfinder programmes to implement the family help, child protection and family network reforms.
  • Two Regional Care Cooperative pathfinders.
  • Setting up an expert group to review standards of care, and associated regulations and guidance.
  • Piloting a new child protection pathway for cases where the primary risk to the child is outside the home. 
  • A fostering recruitment and retention programme, including regional recruitment hubs and rollout of the ‘Mockingbird’ programme£36 million has been invested in supporting over 60 per cent of councils, with less intensive support also available to councils not engaged in the full programme.
  • Introducing a financial oversight regime for the largest providers of children’s homes and fostering agencies.

Changes to corporate parenting 

Following recommendations for reform in the Care Review, the Government has committed to extending corporate parenting responsibilities in England to other government departments and range of other relevant public bodies by mid-2025. 

In 2015 the Scottish Government changed the law and named 24 organisations and public bodies as corporate parents, meaning that they now have a legal duty to promote the wellbeing of children in care and care leavers. Scottish corporate parents now include public bodies like the police, schools and primary care, but also a wider range of organisations like post-16 colleges, Sport Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Housing Regulator. 

The Care Review recognised that the change in Scotland has led to tangible and meaningful change for those with care experience. For example, since becoming corporate parents, Sports Scotland has given care leavers priority access to jobs and the Scottish Funding Council has increased financial support for care experienced University students. As councils do not possess all the levers to effect change for children in care and care leavers, the Review recommended that corporate parenting responsibilities should also be extended in England to better reflect the role that schools, universities, health and other partners have in supporting children in care and those with care experience. 

In their response to the Care Review, the Government confirmed that it will extend corporate parenting duties.  As the change will require new legislation, the Government is now refining which public bodies corporate parenting will be extended to and how this will be implemented, as well as considering adding a new corporate parenting principle for organisations to reduce the stigma and discrimination that children in care and care leavers face. 

Key issues and lines of enquiry for all councillors

What are the characteristics of our cohort of children in care and care leavers? 

Understanding the characteristics of children and young people is the first step to making sure that councils are able to act in their interests. The Children in Care team will have information on the children in the council’s care, including:

  • age and length of time in care
  • where children are currently living, including number of children placed out of area
  • number of children in foster care, children’s homes or other settings (including residential schools, hospitals and custodial institutions)
  • number of children awaiting adoption
  • number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
  • placement stability
  • accommodation and employment information about care leavers
  • education information
  • foreign national children in care.

The corporate parenting panel and children’s scrutiny committee should also receive information about social worker caseloads, to make sure that these are manageable and social workers are able to dedicate sufficient time to children.

Find out how this information compares to that of other councils in your statistical group, and to the national picture, and look at direction of travel to help spot trends and areas of concern. Everyone with a local authority email address has access to LG Inform, which provides a rich source of data for use by councils. 

Do all of our councillors and officers know about their corporate parenting responsibilities?

Every councillor should have training on their corporate parenting role when first elected. It is every councillor’s responsibility to consider how new plans and policies might affect children in care, and to ask questions to ensure that those children are getting the best care, support and protection. Is corporate parenting discussed with officers during their induction to the council, and how is its profile maintained?

There are certain departments within a council that this will be particularly important for, such as education, housing, leisure and skills, but every part of the council needs to consider how its work impacts on children in care and care leavers. Look at how business plans and reports are structured – are officers proactively considering the needs     of children in the council’s care, or could this be improved? How are the corporate parenting principles being applied? 

Consider ways of raising awareness about the corporate parenting role, for example inviting all councillors to any celebration events, or inviting the children in care council to give feedback at Full Council or relevant committee meetings.

Do our partner agencies understand their role in supporting us as corporate parents?

Upper tier councils have a duty, under Section 10 of the Children Act 2004, to promote cooperation between local partners to improve the wellbeing of young people in the area. This includes:

  • physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing 
  • protection from harm and neglect
  • education, training and recreation
  • the contribution made by young people to society 
  • social and economic wellbeing.

Relevant partners include district councils, the police, probation services, the NHS, schools and further education providers. 

The participation of partners in work to promote the wellbeing of all children and young people is vital, and it’s important that they understand the specific needs of children in care so that these can be taken account of in their plans. For example, children in care and care leavers are more likely to need support with their mental health, so colleagues in the NHS will need to consider this, while close working with the police to protect children who are at risk of going missing or being exposed to child exploitation is essential. The phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is pertinent here; the council alone cannot provide all the support that a child in care needs, and all local services have a responsibility to keep children safe and well.

Consider how existing partnership forums, such as local safeguarding partnerships, health and wellbeing boards and crime and disorder partnerships, are taking account of the needs of children in care in their plans, and consider whether other partners might wish to support your ambitions for children in care and care leavers. For example, many councils are working in partnership with local businesses to provide support and opportunities for children in care and care leavers, from ringfenced apprenticeships and paid work experience, to discounted or free gym memberships. 

How are we giving children and young people the chance to express their views, wishes and feelings? How do we know those are being acted on?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children Act 1989 state that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. Children should be involved in developing their care plans and provided with advocates to help them do this wherever necessary. It is useful to also consider information about how the rights of children in care are positively promoted and upheld. 

Likewise, care leavers need to be integral to the development of their pathway plans. Social workers make the necessary arrangements for this to happen, and IROs should ensure children and young people are listened to, and their views taken seriously. IROs should provide feedback on how well this is happening.

What arrangements are in place for children to have access to independent advocates and how many take this up? How are concerns raised through this service reported?

Most councils have established children in care councils, comprising any looked-after children and care leavers who want to take part (though some councils hold a separate care leavers’ forum, depending on what young people ask for); for councils that haven’t done so, it is worth considering this or an alternative method of feedback that’s appropriate for looked-after children in the area. They should be able to set the agenda so that they can talk about what matters to them, and they should also decide how they would like to engage with the corporate parenting panel – whether that’s through joint meetings, feeding back via a mediator, or something else. 

Don’t forget, however, that not all children will want or be able to take part in group forums – there should be mechanisms set up to allow all children and young people to express their views in a way that they’re comfortable with. 

Also consider how to engage with children with special educational needs and disabilities, or those who may face cultural or language barriers to engaging in feedback processes. In some cases, there may be safeguarding concerns about children with particularly complex needs being asked to take part in certain ways of giving feedback – there should be sensitive discussions between the children’s carers, advocates, the complex needs team, social workers and any other relevant professionals to find the best ways of engaging these children, who should still have the opportunity to say how they feel about their care.

Very young children may also find it harder to explain their wishes and feelings, and there will inevitably be children and young people who actively disengage from review meetings or feedback forums. Consider also those children placed out of area and at a distance. All looked-after children and care leavers have a right to be heard, and support must be put in place to give them that opportunity.

Review how feedback from children in care and care leavers is fed back to the whole council so that it can be factored into all relevant decisions – from housing and employment to education and public health.

Regardless of how feedback is collected, make sure that all children and young people (not just those who attend forums or participated in the feedback exercise) find out what has been done as a result of that feedback – show the young people that their voices are being heard, and changes are being made as a result.

How do we show children in our care that we have high aspirations for them?

The Children and Families Act 2014 places a duty on every children’s services authority in England to appoint a virtual school head (VSH) – an officer employed to make sure that the council’s duty to promote the educational achievement of its looked-after children is properly discharged. The VSH should also be an educational advocate for children in care and provide advice and guidance to support parents of previously looked after children. 

The accompanying statutory guidance, ‘promoting the education of looked-after children and previously looked after children’, highlights that as corporate parents, councils should have high aspirations for the children they look after and ensure that all children in care have access to high-quality education that meets their needs. 

Councils should be ambitious for every child in their care, working with and encouraging them to achieve their full potential, from overcoming early instability or trauma to progressing well in education, learning and training, to pursuing hobbies and developing their talents. 

It’s important to recognise that children in care are likely to have had very different experiences to their peers, therefore they might be at very different stages at school to other children of the same age. Additionally, in 2022, 57.4 per cent of children in care had a special educational need, compared to 16.3 per cent of all children. Providing the appropriate support can help children begin to overcome earlier trauma and disadvantage, and research shows that children in care achieve better educational outcomes than children in need who stay at home, thanks to the protective factor of that care. The VSH will keep the council updated with how looked-after children are progressing in school, what support is provided to those with learning difficulties, and what action is being taken to help them reach their potential. 

Children and young people thrive on recognition and reward, and it’s important to make sure that children in care receive this in the same way children in the rest of the population do. Award ceremonies, money for carers to take children for a celebration of a sports win, or a congratulations card from the lead member for a good school report or a special birthday will all help to reassure children that their efforts are recognised, supported and cared about. 

As young people approach leaving care, they should be getting support from their social worker and a personal adviser to consider their future career options. The VSH can make sure that young people are encouraged to think ambitiously and are supported to get there. 

Are we providing stable environments for children in our care?

Stability for children and young people is linked to improved mental health and educational attainment. It helps children to develop warm and positive relationships with secure attachments, feel safe and wanted, and develop a sense of belonging. Stability is important across placements, social workers and schools.

Nationally, the stability of placements has remained broadly stable over the past five years. While 55 percent of children in care had stayed in the same placement for at least two years in 2023, 1 in 10 children experienced high placement instability (three or more placements in one year).   
That said, clearly statistics alone cannot be taken on face value. A child or young person should not stay in an unsuitable placement, while a change of social worker to one with a smaller caseload may ultimately be positive for the child – provided this is well managed. 

It’s important that the council understands the reasons for any instability experienced by children, and takes action to limit this where it is not in their best interests. 

What are we doing to look after the health and wellbeing of children in our care?

DfE and Department of Health statutory guidance, ‘promoting the health and wellbeing of looked after children’ sets out that the needs of children in care should be proactively considered in the joint strategic needs assessment and when commissioning health services. It is also emphasises that children in care should never be refused a health-related service, including a mental health service on the grounds of a placement being short-term or unplanned. Integrated Care Systems and health authorities have a duty to respond to requests by councils to carry out health assessments for children in their care. 

The health and wellbeing board is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the JHWS. Particular issues to look out for include:

  • mental health services – children in care are more likely to have a mental health difficulty than children in the general population. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence found that 45 per cent of children in care had emotional and mental health problems, compared to 10 per cent of children in the general population. 
  • sexual health and family planning services – young people who grew up in the care system are around 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant compared to other teenagers. 
  • drug and alcohol prevention services – a third of young people leaving care report problems with drugs or alcohol within a year.

Do children and young people have good access to services to support with these, and other health issues? How long are they typically waiting for support?

It’s important to remember that while many children in care will be happy and well-adjusted, some will have experienced significant trauma, others will have lived unstable home lives, and some may lack good support networks. It’s the responsibility of councils, as corporate parents, to work hard to tackle those issues and support the children in their care as they work to overcome difficulties that most children in the general population might never have to deal with. 

As corporate parents, councillors will want to challenge any stigma and discrimination faced by children in care and care leavers, and to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes. It is important that councillors believe in children and young people in care and care leavers, and fight their corner. 

If a child has experienced one or more placement moves or social workers, it’s important that their health records are being monitored so that things like regular dental check-ups and standard vaccinations aren’t missed. Looked-after children should receive an annual health assessment (every six months for under-fives). It’s important that these are being carried out in a child-friendly way. Some children find these intrusive and feel they are unnecessary, so make sure they understand why they are taking place and that they know their right to opt out.

What are we doing to support children in care’s emotional needs and help them to build healthy, loving relationships?

A significant issue for looked-after children and care leavers is having a support network. If they aren’t able to rely on family, and if they’ve experienced multiple placement or school moves, they might not have had a chance to build up a network of their own. Look at what’s being done to help them develop relationships that will support them both now and when they leave care, and see what help is available locally – are there volunteer mentors or support groups, for example? All looked-after children should be offered the chance to have an independent visitor – a volunteer to befriend and support them consistently, providing a relationship with an adult who isn’t their carer or social worker. Having stable placements and social workers will also help children to feel more secure and help them learn to develop positive relationships.

It is important to respect the diversity and individual needs of children in care and care leavers, and to make sure that those needs are responded to appropriately. This includes catering for the cultural and religious needs of children, and support for children’s emotional wellbeing including, for example, issues around gender identity and sexuality. 

Consider also issues like access to sports facilities and music lessons or other activities outside of school, which will contribute to a child’s wellbeing and sense of belonging. What happens to these if a child changes placement? Are care leavers helped to keep accessing activities to support their wellbeing? And what is the local offer for care leavers?

What are we doing to ensure that ensure our children in care are not unnecessarily criminalised?

With the growth of child criminal exploitation and county lines, it is important that as corporate parents, councils are doing all that they can to prevent children in care from being coerced or drawn into criminal activity. It is also important to ensure that children in care aren’t being unnecessarily criminalised for behaviour that they might not be if they were living at home.  

Children in care are at higher risk of interacting with the criminal justice system, with more than 52 per cent of children in care having a criminal conviction by the age of 24, compared to 13 percent of children who have not been in care. It is important to find out the proportion of children looked after by your authority that are involved in the youth justice system, and find out how this has been changing over time. Are things improving, or is there more work to be done? Have the types of offence changed, or the profile of young people involved? What arrangements are in place to support children in care engage with restorative activities? 

Research has also found children living in children’s homes are criminalised at excessively high rates compared to all other groups of children, including those in other types of care. Children living in children’s homes are more likely to be put in situations where they come into contact with the police. For example, children and young people report that the police are too often called out in situations where they likely wouldn’t be in a family setting, such as getting into verbal arguments, returning home late or exhibiting ‘challenging behaviours’ due to SEN or mental health difficulties.

All agencies including the local authority, care providers, the police, health services, Youth Justice Services and partners in the justice system should follow the national protocol on reducing unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers (2018) and have their own local protocol in place. The national protocol sets out best practice to keep care experienced young people out of the criminal justice system, through using restorative and diversionary approaches. It also promotes better understanding of the potential causes of offending and positive parenting in care. The protocol is clear that the police should not be called out for matters where a ‘reasonable parent’ would not have called the police, including to deal with low-level behavioural management.

The council’s corporate parenting panel should monitor the proportion of children in children’s homes who are involved with the youth justice system, find out what arrangements are in place to manage incidents in children’s homes, and work with and support officers to find out if improvements can be made.

More information can be found in our youth justice resource pack for councillors.

What are outcomes like for our care leavers? 

As a corporate parent, it’s up to you to make sure that care leavers are getting the support they need to successfully transition into adulthood and lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Care leavers typically start living independently earlier than their peers, and unlike other young people they often don’t have family to fall back on. It’s therefore vital that they know that support is there for them to help overcome any challenges. Every area has to publish information on its local offer for care leavers. Councils can provide a range of discretionary support, ranging from guarantor and deposit schemes to help care leavers rent in the private rented sector, to council tax exemptions, financial support to attend university, help with driving lessons, free travel and free or discounted leisure memberships. 

Consider how your local offer measures up against other comparable local authorities, and how it could be improved. The website ‘Care Leaver Local Offer’ collates every council’s offer in one place. 

Every care leaver should have a pathway plan and the support of a personal adviser, up to the age of 25. However, support can be extended to older cohorts – for example, North Yorkshire Council have introduced an “always here" approach where, instead of ending support at 25, they continue to act as a corporate parent and provide support for those with care experience whenever they need it. 

Work on the Pathway Plan should start well in advance of a young person leaving care and should be based on an assessment of their needs. It should consider the young person’s options for when they’ve left school, whether that’s further study or entering the world of work; what kind of accommodation will be suitable for them, and what additional support they may need. 

What are the training, education and career destinations for care leavers in your area? For those aiming for university and further education, children in care should be getting support at school to help them achieve their potential, and the Virtual School Head will know what interventions are working best or could be expanded. It’s also important to look at pathway plans to see how children are reassured about university – it’s a scary prospect for most young people, so care leavers need to know how they’ll manage their finances, and where they can go during university holidays.

For those that don’t go on to university, how many are not in education, employment or training – and what is the council doing to improve that? Are the statistics getting better or worse? Find out how care leavers factor into your authority’s recruitment, skills and economic development strategies. Many councils offer ringfenced apprenticeships and internships for children in care and care leavers – check what’s already being provided or whether similar schemes could be established in your council. 

For more information on support and outcomes for care leavers, please see our support for care leavers resource pack.

What proportion of young people leaving care are ‘staying put’ and ‘staying close?’

‘Staying put’ is an arrangement that allows a looked-after child to continue to live with their foster carer after their eighteenth birthday, when they cease to be ‘looked-after’ by the local authority. This can take place where both the young person and the carer want to enter a staying put arrangement. 

A ‘staying put’ duty was introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014, which requires councils to monitor arrangements and provide advice and support (including financial) to the foster parent and young person to facilitate the arrangement until the young person reaches 21. Nationally, 31 per cent of former looked after children were still living with their foster carer at age 19 and 20 in 2023. It is important to consider what proportion of young people are ‘Staying put’ in your area, and the reasons for ‘staying put’ arrangements ending. 

Staying close is a model for supporting young people leaving residential care, where councils provide a bespoke package of support and move-on accommodation. 

Initially staying close was piloted in five local authority areas and an additional 15 councils were funded to introduce the offer in 2022-23. Independent evaluations have shown that where young people have been provided with staying close support it has had positive outcomes, including reducing the likelihood of eviction, improving wellbeing and increasing engagement in education, employment or training (EET).

The DfE has made funding available from 2023-25 to support councils that are not already delivering staying close to introduce an offer. The Government has also committed to bringing forward legislation to make staying close a national entitlement to support young people up until the age of 23. 

Are we providing children in care with the right type of placements?  

Every children's services council has a ‘sufficiency duty’, which states that it must take steps to secure, as far as possible, sufficient accommodation and support within its area to meet the needs of children that it is looking after. 

For more information on placements, please see our placements resource pack.

How many children are placed out-of-area, and how are they being supported?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meeting the needs of individual children, and there are often very good reasons why some children are placed outside their home authority. This could be for their own safety, to place them near other family members or to access specialist services.

If your council is placing a higher proportion of children out of area than its statistical neighbours, or than it was two years ago, for example, it is important to ask why. Is this because the children need very specialist placements that can only be found elsewhere, or because there are not enough placements locally? If the latter, what is being done to improve this? If children are moved out of area, this may mean moving them away from their school, their friends and family, and the area they’re familiar with – it’s important that if that happens, it’s for the right reasons and that appropriate support is provided to help the young person manage that transition.

It can also be more difficult to ensure that children placed out-of-area receive the support they need, for example if they move to new waiting lists for mental health support, are a significant distance away for social workers to travel, or need a new school place. What do you know about how well children’s needs are being met when they are placed out-of-area?

How are we supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children?

While the duties owed to looked-after children apply equally to unaccompanied asylum-seeking (UAS) children, this cohort face particular challenges and can require specialised support as they settle into life in the UK. UAS children are a particularly vulnerable group; they are separated from their family, and many are able to speak little to no English on arrival. Many have faced abuse, mistreatment and unsafe conditions in their country of origin or on the journey to the UK, which can result in significant trauma and psychological distress. Some UAS children also may be victims of modern slavery or people trafficking. 

Statutory guidance on the ‘care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery’ sets out the steps local authorities must take to support UAS children, including those who have been trafficked. It covers specific issues relating to these children’s care, including age determination, modern slavery, the national transfer scheme, and the support they require to navigate the immigration system. Importantly, it sets out that everyone involved in the care of UAS children, including social workers, residential home staff, foster carers or support workers in semi-independent accommodation, should have access to training to recognise and understand the particular issues faced by these children. 

For new arrivals, social workers might be among the first people UAS children meet in the UK and play a key role in finding out information about the child’s background – including why and how the child came to the UK – as well as assessing their immediate and long-term needs to plan their care.  Enabling UAS children to be a part of the assessment process and involved in developing their care plan is particularly important. In most cases they will be the only source of information about their history and needs, and they should have access to an experienced interpreter who can support them through the process.

Similarly, placements will need to be informed by careful consideration of the child’s wishes and their support needs, including their cultural and social needs. UAS children are disproportionately placed in independent and semi-independent settings. In 2022, 69 per cent of UAS children aged 16-17 live in independent or semi-independent accommodation, compared to 27 per cent of non-UAS children. In some cases, this may be the best option, however it is important to consider the type of placements and accommodation UAS children are being placed in locally and the reasons for this, for example, are placements being made as a result of sufficiency challenges? 

Providing support to navigate the immigration system and secure UAS children’s immigration status should be addressed in the care plan. If needed, the council must secure appropriate legal representation for the child, either through legal aid, or if no other source of appropriate legal representation exists, the council may have to pay for private legal services.  It is important that planning for the young person’s future does not stop because of an uncertain immigration status, and social workers will have to plan for all asylum outcomes for those turning 18, known as ‘triple planning.’ 

Given the need for specialist support, it’s important to consider what local arrangements are in place to help UAS children settle into life in the UK and provide ongoing support. For example, how easily can UAS children access  specialist mental health support services, specialist support groups or programmes to learn English? Do UAS children have adequate access to asylum services, and are children’s services facing any issues in securing legal support? How does your area support care leavers who have no recourse to public funds?

Under the Illegal Migration Act 2023, there will be a duty to remove most UAS children from the UK when they turn 18. When this comes into force, there is a risk that this will drive changing behaviours for example children going missing shortly before their eighteenth  birthday to avoid removal. The LGA is working with the Government to ensure that these risks are fully understood and opportunities for mitigation identified.

Are we placing any children in unregistered settings?

Children in the care of the council should be living in regulated homes – whether that is by Ofsted, which will apply to the vast majority of placements, or the Care Quality Commission (the exception is where children are living with their parents under a care order). 

Following a consultation in 2020, the Government has introduced a regulatory regime and national standards for supported accommodation for looked-after children and care leavers aged 16 and 17. This provision has previously been unregulated (that is, not subject to registration with or inspection by Ofsted), and has been of variable quality. The intention of the Government is to raise the standard of this provision to ensure high quality accommodation and support for all young people living in such homes.

All providers of this accommodation were required to have had an initial registration accepted by Ofsted by the end of October 2023, with full inspections by Ofsted expected to begin in April 2024. The Government has invested over £142 million to deliver the reforms, with a significant portion of this allocated to councils as new burdens funding in recognition of the increase in placement costs these reforms are likely to bring.

However, as a result of significant placement sufficiency challenges that are being felt in across the country, many councils report that they are still having to use unregistered placements for some children. Often these placements are emergency placements and where children have particularly complex or challenging needs, resulting in difficulties finding suitable registered provision. Where unregistered placements are made, providers should seek to register with Ofsted as soon as possible.

It’s important to consider how many children and young people are being placed in unregistered settings in the council area and why, and ask what progress local providers (including the council itself) are making in registering provision and upskilling staff with relevant qualifications. 

How are we planning for the future and commissioning services?

If a council has children and young people being placed out of area inappropriately or in accommodation that doesn’t suit their needs, it will need to revisit its sufficiency strategy and revise plans and commissioning where possible to address this. The council will need a strong understanding of what its needs are now and into the future, which it can identify by looking at the data and feedback available, and analysing local and national trends. Councils can then use this information to better manage the local market, whether through recruiting and training more foster carers; evaluating the use of in-house and external provision; and working closely with independent providers.

Consider also the way in which services for looked-after children are commissioned; are services better commissioned at a local (how local?) or regional level? Would children and young people’s outcomes be improved if resources were pooled with partners for specific outcomes, such as early intervention or wellbeing, or support for children with complex mental health needs? Are young people involved at any point in commissioning processes, to make sure that services meet their needs?

If in-house provision is an issue, feedback from foster carers – both those that are still working for your authority, and those that have either stopped fostering or moved to an independent fostering agency (IFA) – will be important to find out whether things need to be improved to increase the number of in-house carers. 

How well do we support our foster carers?

It’s vital that foster carers feel well supported so that they are able to provide the best possible care, and can foster for as long as they are able to. Recruiting and retaining enough high-quality foster carers is crucial to ensure that there’s an appropriate placement for every child that needs one, and prevent children being separated from siblings or placed a long way from family, friends and school. 

Since 2021 there have been year-on-year net decreases in the number of foster carers, with almost all areas reporting shortages. The Fostering Network’s State of the Nation Report 2021 identified the following core issues that foster carers would choose to change to improve their ability to care for children:

  • to be recognised and valued as experts who best know the children they care for, and be provided with proper financial support and resources
  • to improve the process for dealing with allegations against foster 
  • for children to have better access to services and support to meet their educational, health, language and cultural needs.

These issues highlight the importance of making sure that foster carers are listened to and have access to the right kind of support when they need it. It is essential that wherever possible, foster carers are kept fully informed about children coming into and leaving their care, and up-to-date with planned changes. This allows them to provide the right support and ease transitions for their foster children.

For example, how effective is local information sharing with foster carers – what level of information is shared with foster carers during the matching process to support positive matches? How are foster carers involved in care plan reviews? Do all in-house carers have up-to-date training plans? Is there good support available if there’s a problem in the middle of the night? How much freedom are carers given to make decisions for their foster children?

Financial support can be an issue for any carer, but in particular there may be concerns around carers with young people in Staying Put arrangements. While they still receive fees and allowances, these are lower than for fostering placements, which can be problematic where fostering is a major source of income for the family, and may make it difficult for families to continue supporting a young person. 

Your best source of information about whether your foster carers feel adequately supported is from foster carers themselves; feedback should be considered by the corporate parenting panel, who can then make recommendations for improvements.

How well do we support our kinship carers? 

Councils are not corporate parents to most children in kinship arrangements – only for those living with family and friend foster carers. However, children in kinship care often have similar needs to those in local authority care, so councillors will want to consider how these children are supported to ensure that they can thrive with their extended families. Kinship care is where children who are unable to live with their parents are taken care of by a family member or family friend. Kinship care can take the form of informal arrangements, where a person is looking after a child but has not been granted parental responsibility through the courts. It can also take the form of formal arrangements, where a friend or family member gains parental responsibility for a child through a Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship Order. Family members can also become foster carers for children that are placed in the care of the local authority. Kinship foster carers receive the same training, pay and are monitored in the same way as other foster carers. 

It is estimated that more than around 200,000 children in England and Wales are currently being brought up by kinship carers. Enabling children to stay within their family networks, wherever appropriate, has clear benefits as it allows them to maintain loving and relationships with family which they can retain throughout their lives. It is also associated with better outcomes for children than other non-parental care.

The Care Review found that we could be doing more to make better use of children’s family networks and improve support for kinship carers. While councils are not required to provide support to children and families who have informal kinship care arrangements (unless they are a Child in Need), it is important that all kinship carers have access to the services and support they need to provide children with loving and stable homes. 

The Government’s social care reform implementation strategy described kinship care as a central pillar for improving support for families, and in December 2023 the government published the first national kinship care strategy.

It is important to find out what support is in place to support kinship carers in your council. For example, does your council offer family group conferencing to enable families to work through their difficulties and identify resources in the family network to support children? Do staff have training on the specific needs of kinship carers and how to support them? What does the wider support offer for kinship carers look like – do they have access to financial allowances, advice or peer support groups?

Further resources

Glossary of useful terms

Term Description
Advocacy An advocate’s role is to make sure that the child’s views and experiences are considered when decisions are made about their future. Every child has the right to be supported by an advocate and councils must have a system in place to provide written, age appropriate information to each looked-after child about advocates and how to request one.
Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) NHS services that work with children and young people experiencing emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.
Care order A court order approving the case for a child to be taken into care.
Care plan A care plan should be developed for every child and young person when they come into care. This should identify how the child will be accommodated, how long it is anticipated that the care order will last, and formulate planned outcomes for the child with associated actions. The plan should be reviewed at least every six months.
Child criminal exploitation (CCE) Child criminal exploitation is where an individual or group coerces, manipulates, deceives or threatens a child into taking part in criminal activity. It can take many forms, including involvement in gang activity and the supply or movement of drugs, known as ‘County Lines’ activity. It can happen alongside other forms or exploitation and abuse, and can take place online and through technology.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.
County lines  A term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operation to smaller towns and exploiting children and young people to sell drugs. 
Children’s home A residential facility where groups of children are cared for by qualified workers.
Eligible child A child aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who are still looked after. An eligible child is entitled to all the same support as a looked-after child.
Relevant child A child aged 16 and 17 who has been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who has left care. This also includes young people who were detained (e.g in a youth offending institution or hospital) when they turned 16 but immediately before that were looked after.) They are entitled to full leaving care duties.
Former relevant child A care leaver aged 18-25 who was a relevant child or was in care until the age of 18. Young people who are still getting help with education or training remain ‘former relevant’ until their training has finished. They are entitled to full leaving care duties.
Qualifying young person A 16-20 year old who was looked after for a day or more, that does not meet the definition of an eligible child, relevant child or former relevant child. They are not owed full leaving care duties but are entitled to advice and guidance and local authorities have a duty to provide them with support based on an assessment of need. 
Foster care Foster care is a way for children to be cared for within a family setting when their own family is unable to care for them. It is considered temporary in that there is no legal split from the family (as with adoption),but can be long term where this is in the best interests of the child.
Independent fostering agency (IFA) IFAs provide fostering services to local authorities. They recruit, train and support their own foster carers who the council can then place a child with on payment of a fee. IFAs can be charities, not-for-profit or profit-making.
Independent reviewing officer (IRO) An IRO chairs a looked-after child’s review(s) and monitors the child’s case on an ongoing basis. They ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects their current needs, wishes and feelings, and that the actions set out in the plan are consistent with the local authority’s legal responsibilities towards the child.
Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) JSNAs identifies the current and future health needs of the local population to inform and guide commissioning of health, wellbeing and social care services within local authority areas.
Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy (JHWS) The JHWS outlines how local partners will work to improve health in the local population and reduce health inequalities. 
Kinship care Kinship care encompasses a range of forms of care, where is where a child is looked after by a relative or a friend. Most kinship care is informal. Local authorities have parental responsibility for children living with friends and family foster carers.
Modern slavery Modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. A person is trafficked if they are brought to (or moved around) a country by others who threaten, frighten, hurt and force them to do work or other things they don’t want to do.
Pathway plan A pathway plan is developed by the local authority with a young person in care as they approach their 16th birthday to help them effectively make the transition from care to living independently. It includes areas such as accommodation, education, life skills and health.
Personal Education Plan (PEP) The PEP is a statutory part of a child’s care plan, making sure that all relevant partners are engaged in a child’s education, tracking their progress and giving them the support they need to achieve and be aspirational in their education.
Private fostering An informal arrangement where a child or young person is looked after by someone who is not their parent or close relative. The local authority should be informed of the arrangement, but is not responsible for the child and is therefore not the corporate parent.
Secure children’s home Secure children’s homes offer specialist care and intensive support in a secure setting to young people sentenced by the courts and to young people detained for their own welfare (for example, where children are at risk of child sexual exploitation). These are referred to as youth justice beds, and welfare beds respectively.
Special guardianship Special guardianship means that a child lives with carers who have parental responsibility for them until they turn 18, but legal ties with the parents are not cut as with adoption. The child is no longer the responsibility of the local authority.
Staying close Staying close is a model for supporting young people leaving residential care, where councils provide a bespoke package of support and move-on accommodation. The Government has committed to bringing forward legislation to make Staying Close a national entitlement to support young people up until the age of 23. 
Staying put An arrangement whereby a looked-after child can stay with their foster carer after the age of 18, as long as both the young person and the foster parent is happy with this arrangement, and it is in the young person’s best interests. The council has a duty to support the arrangement up to young person’s 21st birthday.
Sufficiency duty The duty for a council to take steps that secure, as far as possible, sufficient accommodation within its area to meet the needs of children that it is looking after.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC)

The definition of an unaccompanied asylum seeking child is set out in the Immigration Rules as someone who:

• is under 18 years of age when the claim is submitted;
• is claiming in their own right; and
• is separated from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so.

Virtual school head All councils must have a virtual school head (VSH) in charge of promoting the educational achievement of the children looked-after by that authority. Their role is to know how the looked-after children are doing, and help school staff and social workers to find out about the extra needs of these children and any additional support available to them. VSHs also work with the children’s services department and all schools in the area on initiatives to promote the education of children in care.